Disappearance of asylum-seeker and refugee women highlights need to address gaps in effective protection in Cyprus

During last week till now, three women from Somalia who have been residing in Cyprus as asylum-seekers and refugees have been reported missing. Their disappearance highlights the need to address a number of gaps in the effective protection of asylum-seekers and refugees in Cyprus. In particular, more efforts need to be taken to ensure the integration of this particularly vulnerable group of the refugee population and enhance their self-reliance, education and access to livelihood opportunities. Through their empowerment they will be less likely to fall prey to smugglers and traffickers, a phenomenon that is impacting an increasing number of refugees worldwide, including Cyprus.

Transition from asylum reception shelters and shelters for minors to independent living in the community requires that certain mechanisms are put into place. The activities in the shelters for minors and Kofinou reception center should include practical lessons on how to access services and address administrative issues in Cyprus, such as finding accommodation, employment and accessing welfare rights. Cultural orientation classes could also facilitate understanding of and integration in the Cypriot society.

More support is needed for the unaccompanied children who are expected to leave the shelters when turning 18, while those unaccompanied minors already living outside the shelters are in urgent need of frequent and regular monitoring to ensure their safety. All these young adults, as well as vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees leaving the Kofinou reception center, require professional assistance to find adequate and safe accommodation and to develop a meaningful life plan.

For more information you may read the recent integration report published by UNHCR Cyprus, further to a series of meetings conducted with various stakeholders involved in the integration of refugees.